Dear Readers,

This week Terry is taking a well-deserved break to spend time with his family. In his place, I volunteered to write a reflection for the Words of Encouragement. This is also my last week with Center for Courage & Renewal after two and a half amazing years on staff, so I offer this piece as both a celebration of this incredible work and a grateful farewell. Enjoy!

With gratitude,

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Karen Rauppius,
Marketing & Communications Assistant

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Wonder (noun): rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience.

It’s amazing how different the world looks when you pay close attention. Like peering through a microscope, things you thought you understood are suddenly a source of wonder and awe.

In Circles of Trust®, the phrase “turn to wonder” describes the act of practicing open curiosity and attentiveness. Turning to wonder means slowing down to examine the world around and within us, permitting deeper revelations to emerge.

Turning to wonder means questioning the source of our own feelings and actions, such as: “What does it mean that I associate these two things?” or “What events in my past have conditioned me to respond this way?” In listening to others, turning to wonder also means resisting the urge to react or jump to conclusions. “What does he really mean when he uses that word?” or “I wonder how she came to believe that?”

Over years, we’ve found that when you hold open that space of gentle inquiry, it allows hidden truths to surface and helps us better appreciate ourselves and each other.

Turning to wonder isn’t an easy act. It takes humility to ask a question, and courage to inhabit that uncertainty. It requires a kind of love; love for self and others that opens our hearts to a desire for genuine understanding.

Recently I watched a most profound film, and I’ve carried a sense of wonder about it ever since. HUMAN, a documentary from 2015, captures the stories of over 2,000 women and men in 60 countries across the globe, asking each person the same open questions, like: “What is the toughest trial you have faced? What did you learn from it?” and “What is love to you?” Their answers are astounding.

A roller-coaster from heart-warming to heart-breaking, the film is a deeply soulful exposé on just how different (and yet similar) we humans are. Watching it is certainly an exercise in “turning to wonder,” in opening your heart to the mystery and richness of the human experience.

I invite you to watch my favorite clip from HUMAN and practice turning to wonder. In it, a man talks about how he was raised to believe that love is measured by pain — and that it took an incredible act of forgiveness for him to learn the truth of love.

  • As you watch, what reactions do you notice in yourself?
  • What open, honest questions would you like to ask him?
  • What might he ask you?

As a twenty-five year old, Asian-American middle class cis-woman, choosing to share this video for this reflection raised a lot of wonders around privilege for me. Would sharing this video perpetuate stereotypes of black men, or dispel those myths? Does it challenge prejudice or contribute to it? Am I complicit in normalizing the mass incarceration of black males, or does this help re-humanize people who have been convicted of crimes? Does my own mix of privilege and pain intersect, diminish, or augment this man’s experience?

For me there are no clean answers to these questions, and in true Courage & Renewal fashion it feels like a paradox of “both/and” instead of “either/or.” But my hope is that you will explore your own reactions, as I did, and walk away with a sense of openhearted, awe-filled compassion.

As Socrates said, “Wisdom begins in wonder.”

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P.S. “Turning to wonder” is a foundational practice in a Circle of Trust. Give yourself the gift of exploring this Touchstone and others by attending a Courage & Renewal program.

P.S. For those curious about the story behind the man in this video, there is a book called Wildflowers in the Median which captures the story of Agnes and Leonard and their journey of reconciliation.

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